The Lady Sharks, who have played in the national volleyball championship game the past three years, are off to another good start.
They are ranked No. 3 in the nation, with a 15-2 record, and have won nine of their past 10 games.
But they have faced some stiff competition. Their two losses have come against top-ranked teams. They lost to the College of Central Florida, ranked No. 13th in the nation, on Aug. 23 and Seward County Community College, who was the top-ranked team in the country at the time, on Sept. 13.
The Lady Sharks have also had their share of big wins. They have beaten the defending national champions the College of Southern Idaho on Sept. 6, No. 6th ranked Snow College on Sept. 7, No. 9th ranked Salt Lake Community College twice and No. 14th ranked Utah State Eastern on Sept. 7.
“In each match, whether we win or lose, we learn something and that helps us improve [on] the things we did well, and [we] work harder on the things we did not do so well to get better at them,” said head coach Origenes “Kiko” Benoit.
With the addition of ten new players that come from a myriad of different countries, the team struggled with chemistry and communication at the start of the season. They worked hard in practice to bond and build confidence with each other.
“I think we are much better now because we have been creating a team together,” said freshman libero Paola Pimentel. “Day-by-day we are working hard to get better at all times and I feel we are ready for the competition.”
Two sophomores have played integral roles in the team’s success.
One of those players is outside hitter Yaniris Miller-Green, who recently won the NJCAA DI Offensive Player of the Week award. She is averaging 3.71 kills per set with 219 kills and 136 digs in 17 matches.
Scherine Dahoue, also an outside hitter and team captain, is making a big impact. Dahoue has 205 kills, 187 digs in 56 sets.
“As captain, I’m going to try to bring energy, a positive attitude and try to help my teammates as much as they try to help me,” Dahoue said. “I will be doing my best, giving my hundred percent all the time to help this team.”
As a team, the Lady Sharks are putting up good numbers nationally. They are fifth in digs per set (19.10), seventh in hitting percentage (.316), third in kills per set (13.42) and fifth in assists per set (12.48).
Despite the early success, the team knows they must stay focused. At the moment, clinching a spot in the state tournament is their priority.
“We have very strong and aggressive players when we attack but before we attack, we have to receive and set, it is a mix of all those things together,” Benoit said. “Our biggest competition is ourselves because if we do things the way they should be done, I believe we have a team to win the state and national championships.”
The Lady Sharks’ next game is on the road versus Palm Beach State College on Oct. 8 at 6 p.m.